Organizational Parkour: the Negotiation Game for Designers
At IAS09, Matt Milan gave a provocative talk on what he called "Innovation Parkour." Parkour is a way of moving from place to place as efficiently as possible by jumping, vaulting, or climbing around obstacles. His talk was a plea for us to practice our craft so great design can become a reflex in the face of challenge, much as parkour artists view the environment not as a hindrance to their sport but an aid.
I believe the equivalent of the built environment in parkour is less the landscape of the design challenges we face than the structures, process, and culture of the organizations in which we do our work. Yes, design exercises make better designers - however, an IA/UXer who can solve wicked problems but who can't get her organization to implement her solutions needs also to be practicing complimentary disciplines: cultural diagnostics, relationship savvy, and communication and negotiation skills.
Enter Organizational Parkour, a game where IA/UXers can practice these complimentary skills. The game pits teams against each other to complete deliverables, by role-playing and negotiating based on the tenets of Principled Negotiation. Game players are guided on how to use negotiation skills to manage sticky client issues and see great work to completion.
Welcome to Organizational Parkour – the Negotiation Game for designers
What is parkour? How many people in this room know what parkour is?
To inform and refresh: Most people attribute what’s become the sport of parkourto this man, Georges Hebert (who looks a bit like Sasha Baron Cohen)...Georges Hebert was a physical educator for the French military, and in 1902, he was an officer in the French Navy stationed at St Pierre Martinique when Mount Pélé erupted. St Pierre was destroyed – Hebert was credited personally with saving700 people. In order to do that, while the pyroclastic flows came down the mountain, he had to take the most efficient route possible.Later, when he became a physical educator, wrote a book called the Natural Method. Advocated using obstacle courses for physical training.In light of his experience with Mount Pélé and the French military, he had a sense of public service about physical training, as we do about our jobs: the quote above translates as “be strong to be useful.” In our discipline, we need to be strong in order to be useful, too.
What taking the most efficient route looks like: don’t take the stairs…
Don’t walk around the railing…
Don’t bother to open the gate…
So I am not the first one at the IA Summit to use parkourto talk about design. This is Matt Milan, partner at Normative Design in Toronto, and 4 years ago did workshop on what he called “Innovation Parkour.” Used the obstacles in parkouras a metaphor for the design challenges we’re faced with in innovating in our work, and called on us to practice our craft – as parkour artists practice - so we won’t be spooked by them.
And this is a quote from one of his slides.
For me, the “built environment”in which I do my work is organizations. The barriers I need to leap over as the pyroclastic flows surge down the mountain (okay, as a project manager lashes me with the schedule) are ones that are created by the organizations that hire me.And in fact, so many of us feel like Renaissance artists, painting our doughy, gout-ridden patrons into our frescos because that’s where the meat and potatoes come from. Not a healthy viewpoint…
And from this jaundiced viewpoint,I’ve said this several times on Twitter…
This is extreme, granted… but not without truth. I remembersurprising one of my bosses, once, by telling him: “Every one of the people on your staff is capable of much more innovative, surprising and delighting work than the circumstances here will allow.” And it was great to see him recognize that challenge and subsequently rise to it.
Organizationscan throw up barriers – in both less thoughtful, sclerotic ways and in real ways that might pertain to their size and the amount of coordination that their size requires, the amount of risk in their enterprises’ mission, their level of public accountability, for instance…
Size, leadership and organizational mission beget culture, which Christina Persson and I talked about in our IxD12 presentation…
Personalities, which Kyle Soucy gave a rich presentation on the other day, looking at leadership and participation styles… (see http://www.slideshare.net/usableinterface/i-cant-work-with-you-but-i-need-to for Kyle’s IAS13 presentation)
And the amount and type of organizationalknowledge about design, which was the topic of Alberta Soranzo’s Unicorn talk, yesterday. (see http://www.slideshare.net/atrebla/unicorns-and-other-wild-things for Alberta’s IAS13 talk)A content writer friend of mine likes to say that in a literate society, everyone thinks they’re a writer. And everyone uses the web and their phones and makes documents, so everyone thinks they’re a designer. And it’s true – they might not *be* designers, but they *do* design things…they chose their couch, the cushions on it, the curtains, the shrubs in the garden…for instance…So, people in companies hire me and are enthusiastic, but they don’t really know what I do, and that can quickly devolve to disconnect and anxiety. People have partial ideas about what is design; people have ideas that are heavily slanted to their own personal styles and skill sets, and their org and culture. Conflict often occurs when my client’s idea of what I do is out of sync with what it is I *really* do.
But it’s all okay…
Because the difference between having a wide open field in which to run
And an environment fraught with barriers are two things…
First, switch your attitude: urban or rural, it’s all just terrain. The important thing to realize is that organizations, culture, personalities, and knowledge are not the things *interfering* with our jobs – understanding them IS our job. As in parkour, you need to use the things in the terrain to vault yourself forward.
The second this is practice: Thisis jazz pianist and composer Cecil Taylor’s take on what it means to practice: “You practice so you can invent.Discipline? No…The joy of practicing leads you to the celebration of the creation.”Jazz musicians have frequently said you don’t even know what you’re doing until you’re 50, and if your fingers still work and your lungs and vocal chords are still resonating, you just get better and better. Cecil is 84, now, and at his level, his perspective is that practicing is what you *do*, and performance is the *celebration* of it.
So we’re going to do some joyful practicing this morning – we’re going to play a game.
It’s a role-playing game: some of you will play clients and some of you will play Uxers.
And there’s a story here for you: the story of a project…
Think of this game as your parkour park (this is a pic of a real parkour park in South London…)
And instead of running, leaping, vaulting and shinnying up the obstacles in this project, how you’ll get through this obstacle course is through learning and practicing negotiation skills.
I still think this is the best book to start with on the subject of negotiation. It was written in 1981 by Roger Fisher and William Ury who started the Harvard Negotiation Project.So although Roger Fisher’s experience includes being instrumental in the 1978 Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel, this is still a very accessible book, and it is just as applicable to resolving domestic and business conflicts as labor and international ones. In fact, they make it clear that one of the reasons the book remains powerful is that everyone negotiates, and if you’ve risen to adulthood, at some point you’ve used one, many or all of the techniques the book describes.
The book sets forth the concept of principled negotiation – which not only means “principled” in the sense of “morally upright,” but more means that to negotiate based on agreed-upon principles.
You can’t like everyone, and sometimes you meet someone on a project that really grates on you. Drop it. Sometimes you work with people you adore. Drop that, too. Separate the people from the problem, and bring the correct focus to bear on the latter.
We UX-ersdo this all the time, when we listen beneath the surface of what people say they want, into what they really need. What’s a position? “ I will not come to agreement until I get a faster horse.” Use your mad empathic skills to get at their real interests and needs.
Just as when we designthings, we work best when we invent many different design options… We’re familiar with guiding clients from divergent to convergent thinking…So again, you already have this skill in abundance, as well…
So here’s a riddle:when is negotiation like critique? Answer: both rely on coming to some mutually agreed upon – and thus objective – standards. When we critique, we need to base it on objective principles – like design principles, experience goals, user goals, business goals. And when you negotiate, co-design with your client the goals that the solution to the conflict must meet in order to be successful.
So, in the game we are about to play, there is a fictional project – and here’s the brief.
So in the story of the game, you’re going to modifying content and adding a new mini-application to an existing web property for a large company. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the project, because you are actually not going to be designing anything, here. Sorry, if that’s what you expected. I intentionally drained all the actual designing from this exercise in order to get you to focus on all the rest of what it takes to get great design out the door.
And this is a pet project for the business sponsors - they've actually been lobbying to add this app to their suite for over two years, and they finally got the funding for it - only to find that they didn't have any in-house resources available to do it. Whoopsie!
Hence they've hired you - and rather hurriedly - before they lose the funding. You've been chosen over three other firms - basically on word of mouth recommendations - and now you're engaged to do the work.
So this is the Statement of Work you supplied them with…which they read and signed in order to get you to work quickly. You’ll see how well they actually read and understood what you proposed as you get into the game…
Now for the game rules and such…
Organizational Parkour: the Negotiation Game for Designers
Organizational ParkourThe Negotiation Game IA Summit 2013 Joan Vermette Experience Design Director Mad*Pow
Principled Negotiation Separate the people from the problem
Principled Negotiation Separate the people from the problem Focus on interests, not positions
Principled Negotiation Separate the people from the problem Focus on interests, not positions Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do
Principled Negotiation Separate the people from the problem Focus on interests, not positions Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do Insist that the result be based on some objective standard
Project brief Modifying content and adding a new mini-application to an existing web property for a large company
Project brief This is a pet project for the business sponsors - theyve actually been lobbying to add this app to their suite for over two years, and they finally got the funding for it - only to find that they didnt have any in-house resources available to do it.
Project brief Hence theyve hired you - and rather hurriedly - before they lose the funding. Youve been chosen over three other firms - basically on word of mouth recommendations - and now youre engaged to do the work.
Project brief They have visual designers in house wholl apply their (rather strict) brand standards and style guide, and the development team who will build the thing according to their coding standards and on their existing platform. They‟re providing the content, though you‟ll be responsible for microtext in the application.
Statement of Work Upfront research, including reviewing internal documents stakeholder interviews user interviews. Design Studio workshop Wireframe initial key screens Detailed wireframes of all the flows
Teams Break up into teams of an even number of players
Roles and Turns Break up into roles within teams: UX role Client UX Role Client role Role
Roles and Turns Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1
Roles and Turns 2 Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1
Roles and Turns 2 Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1 3
4Roles and Turns 2 Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1 3
4Roles and Turns 2 Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1 5 3
4Roles and Turns 2 6 Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1 5 3
Roles and Turns 6 Turns should alternate between the UX and Client Role Client roles. UX Role 1
The Cards The script of the story is on a deck of cards. Each card is a part of the story in the process of creating a deliverable.
The object: createdeliverables The object of the game is create deliverables by playing cards in order. You can play deliverables out of order within rounds. Some of the cards the team needs are in the clients‟ hands, some are in the UX team‟s hands.
Dealing, drawing, discarding You‟re dealt a hand of cards from your role‟s deck.
Dealing, drawing, discarding The remainder of the cards becomes a draw pile with a discard pile. If you can‟t play a card in order, discard and pick up another from the draw pile. If you can‟t play that, the turn goes to the other role.
NEGOTIATE All of these deliverables have at least one „hurdle‟ – a point of conflict which will require the UX role players to negotiate. You can‟t finish a deliverable without negotiating. You don‟t get points for deliverables you don‟t finish.
Negotiation rules:Tip Cards When the UX Team negotiates, they must do two things:1. Pick up a “Tip Card” and read it aloud to the team.
Negotiation rules:Chips2. Pay your client three chips. The Client team can decide, based on the skill of the negotiator, to pay back some, none, or all of the three chips.
Timing and Game Play The game is in three phases: Discovery: Deliverables 1 – 4 Research and Design Studio Workshop: Deliverables 5 - 8 Design: Deliverables 9 - 10 We‟ll take 15 minutes per phase – I‟ll time you.
Feedback Was the negotiation hard enough? Too hard? Why? Did you feel engaged enough with the story? What would make you more engaged? Did you recognize the conflicts? What could be done to enhance them? Did the tip cards make sense? Were they helpful? How could the game mechanics be improved?